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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Matchup of Olympic guards may not materialize

Olympic guard vs. Olympic guard, two of the bright young stars going to head to head on Monday night in a game televised on ESPN2 was a dream matchup within the matchup. However, the tender hamstring of Florida State star Leticia Romero might prevent that from happening.

Romero, who averaged 5.8 points in just 9.8 minutes in helping Spain win the silver medal at the 2016 Olympics, missed the Seminoles' season-opening win over Jacksonville State and FSU coach Sue Semrau recently told the media that it didn't look good for Romero to play against UConn on Monday. While it will be unfortunate if that proves to be the case, it is certainly understandable as hamstring injuries are not to be taken lightly. As anticipated as the FSU-UConn game is, it is not worth putting Romero's senior season in jeopardy.

Romero was among the players who attended the NCAA women's basketball media day held at ESPN and she spoke with the Connecticut reporters in attendance for more than 15 minutes on a variety of subjects including the upcoming season as well as the matchup with UConn.

"We are definitely dreaming big especially with how practices are going," Romero said. "We have five newcomers and they are great, they are ready to learn, they are fresh and want to help. Everybody's mindset I feel is great. I feel like we have grown as a team even since last year. You can see that maturity level on the court and in practice.

"We are definitely looking forward to that game. It is a good, fresh start and I think it is a chance for us to prove what we can do this year. If we are ready for it, I think we can compete, we have an opportunity to win that game. I hope there are a lot of people (in the stands), that will help us a lot. We have a nice fan base so if we can get people to come to our game, as loud as they are, that can help too."

Perhaps there was another international tournament that both Nurse and Romero played in before the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championships but I know that the two of them not only played in that event but were their team's respectively leading scorers. The teams were in different brackets during pool play and did not meet but there were soon to be matchups down the road. Their teams met in the Olympics on Aug. 14 but it was one of the games Romero did not play. Still, she has plenty of thoughts on Nurse.

"We always saw each other in those tournaments because she is always with the Canada team and I am always with the Spanish one and we are both playing in the United States," Romero said. "I think she is a great player honestly, I like the way that she plays and it is always a pleasure to compete against her. Obviously she is going to be one of their leaders of UConn and when we face each other, we will see what happens."

Romero said she learned so much from the veteran players on Spain's team.

"Watching the professional players and how they take every day serious, they come prepared every single day no matter what it is, they always make the most of it," Romero said. "They understand that in order to get to where you want to go, you have to be the best at everything. That is something I really was impressed with because even on rest days that they were so focused on every detail they needed to do that day."

Nurse expressed some similar sentiments when I spoke to her after Saturday's practice.

"She is a great player, a great competitor," Nurse said of Romero. "I have so much respect for her game, you play on one of the No. 1 teams in the world in Spain, you are surrounded by those great players every day, that is just an absolute pleasure.

"It was Kim (Gaucher) and Shona Thorburn because I was a point guard at that point. Shona read the game very well and that was something I wanted to do. The three vets that we had who ended up leaving this year and retired, they had their own little ways with everything and I was fortunate to watch how they treated the game, how they treated practices, how they approached everything and that is something I learned."

Here's a previous blog on Nurse talking about her Olympic experience. Despite a tough tournament shooting the ball, she was Canada's leading scorer averaging 11.6 points per game. She was also second on the team in assists and third in steals.

I can't write an entry on Romero without addressing her arduous road to FSU. She began her career at Kansas State but after head coach Deb Patterson was let go Romero decided she would transfer. Officials at Kansas State, however, blocked her every step of the way. It wasn't until some heavy hitters in the basketball world raised a ruckus that they relented and Romero was able to transfer to Florida State.

"As soon as I started playing with FSU everything went away," Romero said. "All I needed was to enjoy basketball again. It was off the court it was never on the court so just playing basketball was the only thing that I needed. As soon as I started playing for FSU I didn't even have a thought about problem anymore.

"I got a lot of questions that year about Kansas State. I was so blessed to be able to play. I think that helped me a lot mentally because being able to be with a team and being able to just get over that and even the season that we had, we weren't expecting to be a top 25 team and all of a sudden we were playing for the ACC championship, getting to the (NCAA) tournament and one step closer to the Final Four. All of those things made it possible for me to think about the hard times."

Things weren't quite as challenging for recent FSU transfer Chatrice White who received a waiver from the NCAA so she could play this season with the Seminoles without needing to sit out the season.

"I remember the first practice when she knew she was going to play, her face was so happy," Romero said. "That is how you know that our team this year is really genuine in all the things that we do. Everybody was pumped up that she could play and now she is working so hard."

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